Indigenous leader Warren Mundine says corporations and Yes supporters are out of touch with the practical realities facing Aboriginal communities, as he lashed the Voice referendum as a divisive process that has ignited a “war on modern Australia.”
In a speech to the National Press Club on Tuesday, the leading No campaigner aired his grievances against an Indigenous Voice to Parliament less than four weeks ahead of the vote.
He declared the Voice offered Indigenous Australians only two choices, one being a reality based on “centralised, government dependence” and another a mindset focused on historical wrongs and “identity politics”.
“The other is a vision of economic participation, financial independence and self-determination and a mindset focussed on jobs, education, social stability and practical initiatives,” Mr Mundine said on Tuesday.
Mr Mundine, a former Labor party leader, has become one of the most high-profile figures in the referendum debate since he founded the Recognise a Better Way group opposing the body in January.
He has since campaigned alongside Nationals Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, despite a split in opinions over Indigenous treaties and changing the date of Australia Day.
In his speech, Mr Mundine said despite fractures in the No camp Indigenous people needed to “forgive” and “fully invest in our shared national project” to reach reconciliation.
“Many Aboriginal people feel angry when they think about the wrongdoings of Australia’s past. But these events can’t be undone,” he said.
“So as Aboriginal people, we have a choice: to continue to feel angry and aggrieved — to be trapped in the past — or to draw a line in history and move on from a clean slate.”
Mr Mundine’s speech comes amid an increasingly divisive debate over whether the constitution should change to create a body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to advise the government on policies affecting them.
The referendum is Australia’s first since 1999, and has seen a record number of people enrol to vote on October 15.
Corporate Australia has overwhelmingly backed the proposed Voice, with national airline Qantas declaring its support after it unveiled three planes sporting a Yes logo on three planes at Sydney Airport in June.
Mr Mundine, a successful businessman, harshly criticised corporations for treating the Voice like “the shiny new thing” and said companies like Qantas failed to advocate for work which directly benefited Indigenous people.
“Large corporates have been advocating for the Voice – but when was the last time any of them raised awareness about violence and abuse in remote Aboriginal communities?,” he said.
“When will Qantas paint one of its planes with a call to confront the violence and abuse of Aboriginal women and children in remote Australia?”
He said the referendum and Uluru statement have become a “glossy marketing brochure” for the misappropriation of Indigenous culture and for a “radical and divisive” Australia.
“We have also seen the good of this nation and the good its people and its institutions, and the great promise it offers to all Australians Our stories are testament. We must work harder to create the opportunities for other stories,” he said.
“But we all oppose the Voice and the radical and divisive Voice, Treaty, Truth agenda of the Uluru Statement that the Albanese government has committed to.
“That pathway will not reconcile us. It will only divide us and keep us that way.”